The head of Los Angeles County's Affirmative Action Compliance Office has been accused of racial discrimination by his chief deputy, and the County Civil Service Commission agreed Wednesday to hear the complaint.
In a complaint filed Aug. 9 with the commission, Debrya J. Moore alleged that Affirmative Action Compliance officer Robert A. Arias, a Latino, has discriminated against her because she is black.
"Mr. Arias is in the business of fostering racial divisiveness and animosity between two groups," Moore alleged in her complaint.
Arias is on vacation and could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A county attorney said Arias "vehemently denies the charges."
The complaint is the latest labor conflict between Latino and black workers.
Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused the county of discriminating against Latinos in hiring at the giant health services department. The EEOC study singled out County-USC and Martin Luther King Jr./Drew medical centers for allegedly failing to hire and promote Latinos "on a basis equal to other ethnic or racial groups."
The report found that the county's largest agency, with 22,000 workers, is about 22% Latino, while the county population is 37% Latino. Blacks, which represent about 12% of the county population, account for 34.9% of county health services jobs.
Black and Latino labor leaders said the finding could soon pit the two minority groups against one another in the search for increasingly scarce county jobs.
In the filing presented to the Civil Service Commission on Wednesday, Moore alleged that Arias has effectively demoted her and kept her and other blacks from sensitive investigations--including one that reviewed the same complaints which led to the EEOC charges.
"The deliberate exclusion of blacks from this highly sensitive investigation served to exacerbate the already existing tensions between the primary ethnic groups affected by the investigation," Moore wrote in her complaint.
Jeffrey M. Hausman, a private attorney representing the county, denied that there was an effort to keep blacks off the investigation.
Hausman said Moore is simply unhappy with Arias' recent evaluations of her job performance. But Fred Williams, a labor consultant representing Moore, said there are other allegations of discrimination which he would not make public until the hearing.
The complaint is at least the third discrimination case to be filed by employees against Arias since he was named head of the Affirmative Action Compliance office in the mid-1980s.
The two earlier cases--one brought by a Filipino woman and one by a Caucasian woman--were both settled without an official ruling from the commission.